Posted: 1:17 pm Friday, February 17th, 2017
By Jamie Dupree
Brushing aside complaints from critics, the Senate on Friday approved President Donald Trump’s choice of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to be the next head of the Environmental Protection Administration, as Democrats blocked quick votes on four other Trump nominations, delaying action on them until later this month.
The vote for Pruitt was 52-46, as another all-night debate forced by Democrats did not change the final outcome.
“The EPA needs to be reformed and modernized,” said Sen. John Barasso (R-WY), “Scott Pruitt is the right person for the job,” as Republicans derided claims from opponents of Pruitt.
— Sen. James Lankford (@SenatorLankford) February 17, 2017
“Outside of eliminating the EPA altogether, Scott Pruitt is the next best thing,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA).
The final vote on Pruitt was mainly along party lines – two Democrats, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, voted for Pruitt.
One Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, voted against the President’s nominee.
As for Democratic critics, they saw something much darker with the approval of Pruitt, who led a number of state attorneys general in lawsuits against the EPA.
“Pruitt cares more about protecting Big Oil than protecting our planet,” said Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ).
The core mission of the EPA is to ensure our children have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. Pruitt is not up to the task. -SB
— Sherrod Brown (@SenSherrodBrown) February 17, 2017
“Donald Trump has made clear his job, his goal is to degrade, destroy the Environmental Protection Administration,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), as he led a parade of Democrats who criticized Pruitt for his views on climate change and more.
Republicans had hoped to approve Pruitt and four other Trump nominations that are awaiting final Senate votes, but Democrats refused to allow them to move forward, leaving Republicans frustrated.
“It has led what is now the longest it has taken to confirm most of a President’s Cabinet since – George Washington,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“What a record!” McConnell said in a mocking tone on the Senate floor, as he said it’s time for Democrats to stop their delays.
“Enough is enough,” the Majority Leader said.
On hold for now are the nominations of Wilbur Ross for Commerce Secretary, Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) for Interior Secretary, Ben Carson for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Rick Perry for Energy Secretary.
Sen. McConnell could have chosen to keep the Senate in session into the weekend and next week to force debate and final votes on those four nominations – here is what that theoretical type of schedule would have looked like:
Friday 1 pm – final vote on Pruitt nomination
1:30 pm – invoke cloture on Ross nomination; then 30 hours of debate
Saturday 7 pm – final vote on Ross nomination
7:30 pm – invoke cloture on Zinke nomination, then 30 hours of debate
Monday 2 am – final vote on Zinke nomination
2:30 am – invoke cloture on Carson nomination, then 30 hours of debate
Wednesday 9 am – final vote on Carson nomination
9:30 am – invoke cloture on Perry nomination, then 30 hours of debate
Thursday 4 pm – final vote on Perry nomination
So, you can see just how much time is consumed when one party wants to slow things down in the Senate.
If Democrats refuse to relent, then it will likely mean that the fight over this batch of four nominees will extend into March.
As for Pruitt, the Trump Administration wasted no time getting him on the job, as he was sworn in before the sun went down on Friday by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.
About the Author
Jamie Dupree is the Radio News Director of the Washington Bureau of the Cox Media Group and writes the Washington Insider blog. A native of Washington, D.C., Jamie has covered Congress and politics in the nation’s capital since the Reagan Administration, and has been reporting for Cox since 1989.